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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Importance of balancing your Game for Monetization

I read a recent article, which talked about the newly released IOS game, Batman Arkham Origins. The main focus of the article was the monetization of the game and how even when the game is well appreciated & free, it is not among the top grossing games in the market. That article brought a lot of my attention to the tricky subject of designing the monetization model of your game.

Free to play has been hugely instrumental in bringing a lot of new players in the ecosystem. It has also allowed developers to get more revenue for their games just on the basis of huge number of downloads. However, if not done right, the free to play model can have a damaging effect on the developer’s revenue. Care should be taken to design the monetization model in such a way that it allows the player to play & enjoy the game as it is supposed to be while also giving him incentive to spend money in the game.

The primary target for any game designer should be to make his game as fun as possible. The attention should never deviate from this aspect of game development. Too many times in the pursuit for increasing the spending of the player, designers put a lot of restrictions in front of the player hence eroding the fun factor. This should never be the case. Once the game is made fun to play, the next step should invariably be to develop the monetization model around the game.

There are different ways in which the monetization model can be designed. A lot of free to play games are often Pay to Win games where the only way for the player to win the game or remain competitive is to spend money in the game. This often leads to frustrated players who leave the game before it has a chance to impress them. Pay to Win takes away the competitive factor based on skill which has always been one of the most important factors in games. May the best man win just doesn’t apply in this scenario. I have always believed that monetization model should be designed in such a way that it allows the player to enjoy the game uninhibited, just based on skill. There can be other ways to increase player spending which would allow the player to have more of the fun he is having rather than restricting his progress. This can surely be in the terms of buying better weapons or powers but they should not be definitely required if the player is skilled enough to win without them.

Advertisements are another way in which developers can successfully monetize their games. There are multiple different ways in which advertisements can be implemented in games. The way in which advertisement is implemented should be dependent on the kind of gameplay. Again, gameplay & fun is the most important factor to be considered here. Advertisements should not be intrusive to the game. For example, in a game where the player has to play with a lot of concentration, banner ads may not be the most profitable option, as the player would seldom pay attention to them. Also it may appear intrusive to the gameplay. In this case, full-page ads can be much more viable. Banner ads should best be used in games where on the main game screen; there is a lot of free space, which can be utilized. The frequency of ads would also be important, especially when full-page ads are concerned. It would appear common sense that full-page ads should not appear in the main game but you would be surprised to know that’s not always the case. I have played numerous games where after starting the game, a full-page ad pops up in the middle of the game, disrupting my experience. It’s very annoying to say the least.

There are a lot of free games in the market that are extremely fun to play but don’t earn enough money for their developers just because the monetization model was weak. On the other hand, a lot of very high potential games are killed just when the journey with the player has started because of the frequent insistence to spend money. The most successful games are those who are successful in forming an efficient partnership between fun and monetization, without one coming in the way of another. This however is easier said than done but if some games can do it, so can others. 

Siddharth has been playing games since forever and loves it so much so he decided to make a profession out of it. After completing his MBA, he decided to join EA to learn the ropes of the industry. A Game Producer and Game Designer by profession, while not playing games, he loves to read about them, watch movies and spend quality time with his family. His passion for writing led to the creation of this blog.
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